Playing chamber music is the most satisfying kind of music-making – it’s a great conversation with notes instead of words. Working in groups also brings people closer together. The picture above is a nice example, as Marie helps Tara with her bowhold.

Yesterday, in the afterschool program, we began helping the kids learn to play in small groups by themselves. We’ve been laying the groundwork by playing simple tunes in larger groups led by our fearless leaders, Angela Carota and Trista Emmons, and now we’re encouraging the kids to try it out on their own.

In my cello lessons yesterday, I had the students come in so their lessons overlapped in the middle – everyone got their own time, but we also could play trios. Rather than counting off or conducting, I taught them how to lead the beginning of a piece with a simple sniff. Anyone who’s sat up close at a chamber music concert may have heard these cues, as the players in the group indicate not just when, but how to play by the way they breathe.

In no time, the kids had it down, and we tried several versions of the song we were playing, with them choosing new tempos each time,  informing the others of the new speed only through their sniff. I think they enjoyed it, and they learned a new lesson in communication, too.

At the end of the day, we heard some of the duets that the kids had worked on – let’s close with one of them. And coming tomorrow, Part 2 – a followup post about some very different music, but a conversation just the same.

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